LINCOLN COUNTY, Colo. - A Denver7 Investigation is revealing a potentially crucial mistake during the police search for a man now accused of murdering his estranged wife while she was trying to hide from him.
Denver7 Investigates has learned a Lincoln County sheriff's deputy resigned after admitting he did not call police in the town where Kirsten Lockett was hiding to inform them of the search.
In July of 2015, Kirsten Russell Lockett told Lincoln County deputy Curt Wineski her estranged husband, Richard (Rick) Lockett, kidnapped her. According to police reports, Rick dropped Kirsten off with his friend and fled town before she reported the assault to the sheriff's office.
The new questions now surround whether Lincoln County did enough to protect Kirsten Lockett during the manhunt. In the days following the murder, Lincoln County officials told Denver7 their agency called Castle Rock police urging them to patrol a specific address. Castle Rock police investigated that claim and learned they never received such a call. According to a search warrant, filed by Castle Rock police and obtained by Denver7 Investigates, "Deputy Wineski is no longer employed by the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office due to inaccurate statements he made to his supervisors, concerning whether he called the Castle Rock Police Department to inform them of this investigation. Deputy Wineski had initially stated that he had specifically warned the Castle Rock Police Department about Rick and that he posed a danger to Kirsten's safety. Deputy Wineski later recanted his statement and admitted he had been untruthful with regard to contacting the Castle Rock Police Department."
Lincoln County officials said Wineski resigned from his job for "personal reasons" amid an internal investigation about the Castle Rock call. Lincoln County sheriff Tom Nestor said it came as a shock to his entire department to learn of Wineski's deception.
"It is heartbreaking because deputies are not just deputies, they're members of this community," Nestor told Denver7 Investigates. "Trust is imperative ... that's what law enforcement works on. That's what we rely on with our employees -- the highest integrity and trust level. It is disappointing when that trust is violated."
"Does Deputy Wineski have blood on his hands for what happened?" Denver7 chief investigative reporter Tony Kovaleski asked Nestor. "No ... I would say the responsibility lies with the suspect in the defendant in this case. He made his decision. Do I wish that those calls would've went out? Absolutely, I wish that they would have. But they didn't and that's the case."
Castle Rock police chief Jack Cauley said his agency received an apology from Lincoln County for the inaccurate public statements. He said he doesn't believe a phone call from Lincoln County warning his agency to watch the home where Kirsten was hiding would have changed the tragic outcome of the case.
"This was a crime of domestic violence. It's an intimate type of crime. This individual's determined to kill her, and he did. He's the person responsible for this," Cauley said.
Will the deputy at fault be prosecuted?
District attorney George Brauchler is prosecuting Lockett for murder. He told Denver7 his office has contemplated filing criminal charges against Wineski for his inaccurate statements.
"At this point, we don't think that it was part of an affidavit or sworn statement," Brauchler said. "Those are kinds of the triggers to get us into the criminal realm for when you say something that's a lie. It looks like, at this point, based on the information that I have, that it was a lie that was made to the sheriff, to his employer, that resulted in him no longer being a deputy."
Rick Lockett is expected to stand trial later this year. Brauchler said he did not know if the deputy's documented dishonesty would impact the state's chances of getting a conviction on all of the charges against Rick Lockett. Wineski is a potential witness in the case, as he interviewed Kirsten after the kidnapping five days before the murder and wrote the arrest affidavit in that case.
"That is a huge credibility killer for that deputy," the district attorney said. "If that person were to testify... a letter has to go out to the defense that says we have reason to believe that there may be information out there that would impact this person's credibility, and that may show up in the trial. That's one potentially bad thing."
The case against Lockett is sealed, leaving everyone involved unable to comment publicly about the specifics of the investigation. But the Lincoln County sheriff said his office did everything it could to apprehend Rick Lockett during his five days on the run.
"When we have a major case like that, it's not just his (Wineski's) case. Even me, the undersheriff, the captain, all the deputies helped out with that case. There was a lot of good police work done with that crime. And I think that there was a lot of things done right," Nestor said. "Once this investigation is done, because of the gag order, I would love for you to come back down and talk to us so we can give you all the details that we did do. And I think the family would love to know that too."
Deputy refuses to talk
Denver7 discovered Curt Wineski began working in law enforcement again shortly after resigning from Lincoln County. Wineski worked as a volunteer reserve deputy for the Cheyenne County Sheriff's Department. When Denver7 Investigates requested records regarding Wineski's employment, Cheyenne County officials said they followed up with Lincoln County and learned what happened in the Lockett case. The department told Denver7 it terminated Wineski and dismissed the two speeding citations he issued during his limited tenure because of what they learned about his prior employment.
Denver7 made several attempts to reach Curt Wineski, but did not receive any calls back.
Timeline of Lockett case
June 17, 2015 - Kirsten Lockett obtains an order of protection against Richard Lockett.
July 6, 2015 - Kirsten Lockett files for divorce.
July 10, 2015 - Kirsten Lockett changes her Facebook cover photo to a list of facts about domestic violence, and her profile picture to a domestic violence awareness ribbon.
July 13, 2015 - Kirsten Lockett's mother calls the Lincoln County sheriff to report her missing. According to police reports, Kirsten arrived home a short time later and told Deputy Curt Wineski her estranged husband broke into her house while she was asleep, dragged her out of bed at gunpoint, forced her into his truck and attacked her. Kirsten said Richard dropped her off with his friend and drove away.
July 13, 2015 - Warrant issued for Richard Lockett's arrest. He is on the run, and the affidavit for his arrest states he "may constitute substantial risk to the community and public safety."
July 16, 2015 - Rick Lockett arrives in Castle Rock, where Kirsten's brother lives, according to cell phone records obtained after the murder.
July 18, 2015 - Castle Rock police are dispatched to the home of Kirsten Lockett's brother on a report of a domestic disturbance. Family members tell officers Rick Lockett broke a basement window, dragged Kirsten out of bed at knifepoint, and locked himself with her in a bathroom. Kirsten's five children were in the home. Police forced their way into the bathroom and found Kirsten bloodied and lifeless. Rick had apparently cut his own throat in a suicide attempt. A knife and screwdriver were found in the closet. Rick Lockett is arrested and charged with Kirsten’s murder.
July 23, 2015 - Lincoln County sheriff's official tells Denver7 the agency called Castle Rock police before Kirsten Lockett’s murder to request additional patrols at a specific address.
July 31, 2015 - Deputy Curt Wineski resigns his post in Lincoln County for personal reasons, amid an internal investigation into the Castle Rock phone call.
August 20, 2015 - Curt Wineski begins assignment at Cheyenne County Sheriff's Department as a volunteer reserve deputy.
September 8, 2015 - A backpack containing Rick Lockett's wallet and other items is turned in to Castle Rock police. An affidavit for a search warrant to examine the backpack contains revelations Lincoln County deputy Curt Wineski is no longer on the job after "[admitting] he had been untruthful with regard to contacting the Castle Rock Police Department" to alert them to the Lockett investigation and to suggest increased patrols around a specific address.
February 19, 2016 - The Cheyenne County Sheriff's Department tells Denver7 it terminated reserve deputy Curt Wineski. The department spoke with Lincoln County after receiving questions from Denver7 about Wineski's employment in January. Two speeding citations issued by Wineski during his tenure have been dismissed due to questions about his credibility.